3 Stoic Tenets That Can Help Improve Your Life

By Chintan Zalani

February 19, 2018   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

managing your emotions

As a personal development junkie, the internet is a weird place for you to find tips in managing your emotions and achieving your goals.

One fine day, you get inspiration to read 100 books because a random dude confessed that they are life-changing. You purchase ten books and start reading them.

Which books should you start with? Easy peasy.

Look at the reading lists of those fancy billionaires: Zucks, Billy, and Musk.

A week later, you see a 5-minute video of a guy that didn’t consume alcohol for a year and how it changed his life.

No surprise at what you’ll do next.

Obviously, first, you share it with your friends with the caption #LifeGoals. Then, you fool yourself that you can pull off that enormous goal.


In a couple of weeks, you encounter an article showing how a guy quit his job to travel the world. He now earns $10,000 per month writing.

Well, well, well…

You now need to have a couple of drinks to sort this out.

In a month, the novelty of these goals wears off. Back to square one. You return to your usual routine.

Even if you want to improve, your emotions and ambitions can lead you astray. Behavioural change is difficult.

For help, let’s turn towards the ancient school of philosophy: Stoicism.

Here are three stoic beliefs that will help you build mental resilience and propel you towards your self-improvement goals.

Treat your emotions separately from events

self improvement emotions

Fuck being happy. Fuck being sad.


Self-improvement is challenging because, when faced with resistance, we cave in.

You have sufficient time and resources. But to justify your failure in taking the first step, you construct false stories, blaming external factors.


It’s you, stupid.

Specifically, managing your emotions is the key to making progress.

Stoicism calls forth acknowledging that the conflict is internal.

In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you find strength.”

Once you recognize the fact, you’ll stop making up delusional stories and blame worldly events to justify your indiscipline. Rather, you’ll focus on your inner emotional turmoil. It will prevent hindrance of your progress.

For example:

You’re building a writing habit. Your goal is to show up every day and write as little as 100 words. Initially, internalizing the new behavior is more important than finishing an article.

Now, treat writing separately from how you feel at the time you arrive at the keyboard. You need to suck it up and do it anyway because you owe it to the world.

See Also: 5 Key Insights For A Happy Life From Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

You can’t control the outcome of your efforts

Suppose you have aspirations to become the next Jimi Hendrix. You tell yourself that “you’ll become a legendary guitar player”.

Unfortunately, you won’t really know if you’ll be able to do that despite putting your best effort.

Other external factors like luck, timing, and genes also play a part in the results you’ll get. Ultimately, you can only control your actions.

Hence, in the chaotic world, it makes sense to trust the process and commit yourself to every moment honestly. Seneca mentions that Stoics take every action with a reserve clause – “If nothing shall occur to the contrary” (for taking uncertainty into account).

It’s similar to phrases like “God willing” and “If the fates allow” in Christian writings.

Practically, you can apply this tenet to your self-improvement goals by road mapping an achievable quantitative goal. Instead of imagining and telling yourself that you’ll build a successful business in three months, write down the specific steps that you’ll execute.

See Also: 4 Powerful Ways To Stay Motivated And Reach Your Goals Through Tough Times

Take action and apply your knowledge

read self improvement books

Stoic philosopher Epictetus believed that reading too many books and internalizing their content is not equivalent to progress. Application of that knowledge is what will impart wisdom.

Now, though the advice is 2000 years old, it’s more relevant in today’s digital era because of infomania.

“Motivational porn”.

That’s the term used for readers that scour through self-improvement articles and never take action (hope, that’s not you).

If you read self-improvement articles, then you’re trying to soothe an itch.

Ultimately, you got to realize that the people serving such literature (both the writer and the website publishing it) are making a business out of it. They are trying to help you but you need to move beyond deriving entertainment from such articles.

If you’re looking for a shiny and quick solution to fix your problem, then you won’t find any.

Reading and planning might become a habit and soon an excuse for inaction. So, get on the field and sweat a little.

Implement one tenet in your life and get some shit done today.

Chintan Zalani

I'm an absurdly curious writer with hatred for wet bathrooms (unless I wet them first, of course). If you're up for thoughtful content with layers of psychology, philosophy, science, and data, then check out ChintanZalani.com. And you should totally sign up for my email masterclass on breaking conventions .

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